The economic downturn continued to affect consumer spending and media budgets, but politics gave the market some optimism. The cross-straits Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China is expected to go some way to reinvigorating the island's battered economy. Marketers in travel-related industries are already beginning to adjust their campaigns to target mainland tourists and airlines introduced a raft of marketing campaigns to promote newly opened routes flying direct to and from China. Eva Airways and China Airlines were at the frontline of the battle to attract travellers to their new services.
"China Airlines has a head-start and is a household brand name in Taiwan," says Kelvin Chan, a research manager at Euromonitor. "It has also been more successful in using digital media to attract young consumers via promotional activity on its website. Eva Airways has an emphasis on safety, modern facilities and care for the environment, but this has not been enough to challenge the popularity of China Air."
Other leisure industry businesses such as E-Da World, a 90-hectare theme park and entertainment centre soon to open in southern Taiwan, are pitching directly at Chinese and US visitors. However, consumer-facing businesses and retailers in Taiwan say they have yet to see any significant boost from stronger China relations. "Most brands and companies may have solutions in place, but have not yet conceptualised them into a formal communications campaign," says Jennifer Tang, managing director of Ogilvy Taiwan.
While brand campaigns based on relations with the mainland are just gearing up, the advertising industry focused on the domestic economy and how to communicate with consumers in what has been coined an 'M-shaped society'. Higher prices and education costs, coupled with flatlining wages, have created a growing number of borderline poor families. Meanwhile, property prices have hit record levels and luxury sales are booming, pointing to a widening gap between rich and poor.
"Conservative consumer spending has driven shoppers to look more for value - not just price, but service and convenience," says Maggie Liang, senior strategic planning director at Leo Burnett Taiwan. "The most successful campaigns responding to this have been in the retail and convenience store sphere. 7-Eleven, Watsons, and Costco have been great at communicating value, and introducing new products."
The recent flurry of campaigns based on hot-coffee sales in convenience stores, was dubbed the Black gold war by advertisers. 7-Eleven launched Cafe Counters in 3,000 stores; FamilyMart quickly hit back, with a TV and online campaign for its Let's Cafe coffee kiosks, featuring local heartthrob Mark Chao.
Taiwan Top 20 brands
5 Wei Chuan
9 Chunghwa Telecom (CHT)
17 China Airlines
18 Taiwan Beer
20 Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
1 Formosa TV (FTV)
2 China TV (CTV)
3 Taiwan TV (TTV)
4 Chinese TV (CTS)
1 Apple Daily
2 Liberty Times
3 United Daily
4 China Daily
5 Commercial Daily
This article was originally published as part of the 2010 Top 1000 Brands report.